Obama knew better when he spoke those words. As the Associated Press recently reported, the Social Security Administration would continue mailing benefit checks and processing new applications, and the Veterans Administration would continue making its payments. Most federal bureaucrats would remain (as would the military) on the job, and even those who don't work will be paid, likely with little if any delay. The government's debt payments wouldn't be missed, either. The most noticeable inconveniences for taxpayers would be the temporary closure of national museums and parks, and a longer wait for passport applications and tax refunds.
Voters understand this reality far better than most of Washington's professional politicians. A new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 58 percent of likely voters favor a partial shutdown if that's what it takes for Obama and Congress to get the message and cut spending. Voters hold this view even though 48 percent of them think a shutdown would result in some economic harm. In other words, voters are prepared to reward fiscal discipline and punish irresponsible government spenders. Washington is not on the brink in either the fiscal or political sense, so there is no need for further brinkmanship. Unlike the 1995 shutdowns, government deficits, unfunded liabilities for entitlements and exploding national debt are what voters most care about today. The same struggle is seen in a growing list of state capitals where battles rage over government spending gone wild in order to fund lavish compensation and benefits for unionized public employees.
It would be a mistake for Republicans to seek a shutdown as an end in itself, as they did 15 years ago. But an even bigger mistake would be for them to compromise pre-emptively on the spending issue out of fear of a shutdown. With the public squarely on the side of spending cuts and fiscal discipline, House Republicans are in the position of strength in the current debate with Obama and congressional Democrats. The latter -- including Obama and many vulnerable Democrats who face uncertain re-election prospects next year -- have much more to lose and much more reason to compromise. Bottom line for House Speaker John Boehner and his GOP charges: Stay strong. The Force is with you.